You might think that the flag system used by the marshals around the circuit isn’t as important as some of the other things you need to concern yourself with while out on track, but I beg to differ.
It is the job of the marshals to make sure that every rider is kept safe out on track (a job they do fantastically!) and the only way they can communicate with you when the situation on track has changed is through the use of race track flags.
The marshals see everything on track before you, be it oil spills, a bike on the track, standing water, or an albatross having afternoon tea, so it would be very wise to pay close attention to what the marshals are trying to tell you with their flags. This way you can be properly notified of changes to the track conditions.
With that then, let’s get on to the flags you will see during your time out on track.
It’s worth noting that some track day organisers treat flags differently, most notably the chequered flag, so pay close attention in the briefing so you know exactly what to do when you see one of the below track day flags.
Green Flag – The green flag means that everything is ok and you can go ahead and enjoy your lap until you’re told otherwise.
The green flag will usually be shown at the start of a session or after a section where yellow flags have been waved. If you see them you know the track ahead is a-okay.
Yellow Flag – The yellow flag simply means danger ahead. When you see it, slow your speed down and do not overtake.
When you see a green flag or you stop seeing waved yellows you know the track conditions are back to normal.
Red Flag – A flag none of us wish to see. You will normally see the red flag when there has been an incident on the track that has a good chance of affecting other riders.
It means the end of your session, which means you need to slow down, do not overtake and return straight to the pits. Do not circulate the track again otherwise you could see yourself going home.
Black Flag – There are two instances when you will see this on a track day. The first is if you have a problem with your bike and the marshals want you to return to the pits e.g. you have smoke or fluid coming out of your bike.
The second is if race control or the instructors feel you are not behaving sensibly on track to the point where you are a danger to yourself and others.
The flag will normally be accompanied by a point by the flag holder in your direction. If you see it you must return to the pits immediately.
Red & Yellow Striped – The marshals will show this to indicate a potential lack of adhesion in the next few corners. It could be oil or fluid on the track, or it might have started to rain at that part of the circuit.
Slow down a little and be cautious until you are sure you have good grip.
Chequered Flag – Shown at the end of your session, normally on the start/finish line. When you see it return to the pits at your next opportunity so the next session can get under way.
As said above, this race track flag is often treated differently by different track day organisers. Some ask that you slow down a little, others say carry on as normal.
Some say no overtaking, others don’t. Listen for the instruction in the briefing so you know exactly what is expected of you when you see it.
It’s also worth noting a number of circuits are now using lighting systems around the track as well as the usual track day flags, usually flashing either green, yellow or red. They mean the exact same thing as the flags but they’re simply easier to see, plus they act as a few more points of communication around the track.